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  • 41% of the working nation never set a budget for lunchtime spending
  • Almost a third (31%) of Brits spend their lunch break shopping
  • Full time workers are spending more on food at lunchtime each year than their annual gas and electric bill (£849.74 vs £957.60)¹

Lunchtime spending is on the rise; almost a third (31%) of Brits in work or full time education admit to going shopping during their lunch break, and of these, 70% do so once a week or more, according to new research by Wonga, with the average millennial (18 -34 year olds) now spending approximately £245² a year during their lunch break at their work or place of study on shopping.

What was traditionally seen as a chance to relax, and chat to colleagues, has now transitioned into a huge expenditure for British workers.

In line with National Financial Awareness Day on the 14th August, a YouGov survey carried out by short term loan provider Wonga, which in total surveyed over 2,000 people, considered the nation’s spending habits at lunchtime, and whether we’re fully aware of our overspending.

It seems men are the unexpected culprits, with 72% of men who shop during their lunch doing so once a week or more often, compared to 69% of women.

So, why are we spending money during our lunch break?

The five most common reasons that people spend money in their lunch break (apart from their lunch) are:

  1. If something catches my eye (i.e. impulse shopping in-store) (21%)
  2. If I see something that I like on a website and want to buy it (20%)
  3. To fill the time (15%)
  4. Because it’s the only time I have free (15%)
  5. To lift my spirits (13%)

Women were found to be more driven by spending money if something catches their eye (24% vs 19%) and also spending to lift their spirits (16% vs 11%).

Over a quarter (28%) of workers in the capital admit to impulse buying because something catches their eye, with 13% of those surveyed in the North admitting to spending money to lift their spirits, and a similar proportion spending to lift their spirits and treat themselves to something nice.

Younger workers (18-24 year olds) are potentially more likely to stay indoors and browse the internet at lunchtime than their older colleagues, with a quarter of those in this age bracket revealing they consider buying items they see online (compared to 14% of 45-54 year olds).

James McMaster, Head of Marketing in the UK at Wonga, said: “We commissioned this research to inform our financial education hub, Cash Smart and learn more about our customers’ day-to-day spending habits, which is especially important around National Financial Awareness Day.”

The survey revealed that four in ten of lunchtime spenders (41%) admit that outside of their actual lunch, they never budget for lunchtime spending.

The nature of lunchtime is evolving, but it seems those with parental responsibilities are using the time to conduct life admin tasks; nearly a third (29%) of working parents use the time to book appointments, with nearly one in five (19%) saying they pay bills.

Working Brits also have a healthy attitude towards the break, using the time to head outdoors and socialise, with 44% choosing to eat with their colleagues, 27% preferring to sit outdoors, 35% go for a walk, and a quarter (25%) read a book or magazine.

There are a number of ways to be savvier with spending at lunchtime, for example:

Be on the lookout for discount codes

Before making a purchase, make sure you’ve searched for any discount codes. Ask friends if they are signed up to any websites which offer codes, or be sure the check the homepage on a website.

Key dates in the retail calendar

Make the most of national days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Companies offer huge discounts for a limited time only, so maybe wait until then if you’re wanting to buy a particular product.

Meal deals

If you like buying lunch most days, head to your nearest supermarket and take advantage of the cheaper meal deal options.

Set in stone

Give yourself a specific amount of money per week, and don’t overspend. This way you’ll learn to control your spending and be more aware of what you actually need.

 For more tips about the golden rules of budgeting and how to be more financially aware, click here:

Global Banking & Finance Review


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